When this senior forest department official objected to an illegal crocodile show being run on the banks of Kali river in northern Karnataka, he probably did not expect a reaction that would cost him his life.
The victim, assistant conservator of forests Madan Naik, was allegedly stoned to death by tourists near Dandelappa temple in Dandeli, a popular destination for crocodile viewing. Police have registered a case and arrested three persons, including a police officer, who was accompanying the tourists. However, owner of local resort ‘Crocodile Valley’ — who used to run the show — has not been arrested yet.
According to sources, Naik had gone to the temple on Tuesday evening when he saw the unauthorised crocodile show being organised. There was no tip-off or prior information, they said, adding that it was only by chance that Naik noticed the illegal activity.
Officials of the Bangalore-based Wildlife Conservation Society said that Naik's attempts to halt the proceedings irked the tourists. They pelted the forest official with stones, causing severe head injuries in the process. Though passersby rushed Naik to a local hospital, he was declared dead on arrival.
The forest department had earlier stopped the illegal crocodile show, but the resort owner restarted it — albeit discreetly.
“We are shocked that the local police did not take timely action, or even book a case against the crocodile show organisers. It was negligence on their part that led to this tragedy,” a group of wildlife conservationists said in a statement.
Claiming that attacks on forest officials trying to prevent such illegal activities were increasing in Karnataka, the group urged the government to act promptly for preventing such incidents in the future.